Friday, 29 October 2010

HAL - I can't let you do that

Linux users know what HAL is, or should.
It's what lets you plug something in and have it ready to go without breaking everything, or needing you to reboot a la Windows. recently had support added for Input Hotplugging by Udev, which makes HAL rather redundant.

Unfortunately, a great many things still rely on HAL, and for someone trying to make a HAL-less system like me, this is inconvenient.
Now, since re-writing the source code of every HAL-dependent package I wanted to use would take a long time, not to mention requiring experience on my part that I don't have, I opted for a different approach to it.
Arch Linux's system for creating packages makes this simple, so with a copy of the PKGBUILD for HAL, and a few alterations to it, fakehal was born.
It's an empty package, which is designed to replace the HAL package, but provide and depend on nothing.
This has probably produced a highly unstable result, and I wouldn't be surprised to find a great many HAL-dependent packages don't work without it - but finding them and finding out if things can work with a fake HAL installed is part of the experiment.

I've uploaded the package to the Arch User Repository by now, which I'm guessing is most likely how you ended up here. If you want to give it a shot, go ahead and install it. Comments, suggestions, etc, just leave them in the comments or drop me a mail. I think I left my email around here somewhere.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Open, Free - what's the difference?

Apparently a great deal, in the eyes of Oracle and the OpenOffice team.
It seems the OpenOffice team - now the LibreOffice team - have had some kind of falling out, and the resulting schism means that if you'd like to best of OpenOffice, you'll want to move to LibreOffice.

Most users can find a download for it at their download page:

Linux users won't always have their distro catered to, but this is a common occurance. In due time, it should be as widely available as the older OpenOffice was.
So we won't talk about that.

What we'll talk about is the differences, specifically in the naming.
Naturally, OpenOffice is now LibreOffice. This brings other side-effects though. The binary name is no longer soffice, but libreoffice - make note, those of you who use custom menus. You'll need to update them.
This also means that users of Cairo-Dock (and potentially other docks) will need to alter their launcher.
Now, for other docks you may have to do a little figuring out, but for Cairo-Dock, here's how to alter an OpenOffice Writer launcher to serve the same purpose with the new suite.

Grab your launcher settings, and set the command to launch to this:
libreoffice -writer
If you'd prefer it to launch without starting Writer, Calc or any other, simply remove '-writer', or change it to the part of your choice.

Now, while your Launcher will work in this state, if you open a document, you'll find that it won't use the launcher as it's Icon (if you have that option turned on). To fix this, open the 'Extra parameters' part of the launcher properties, and look for the part labelled 'Class of the program'. Change this to 'libreoffice' and watch as your documents all move to the launcher.

While this change may be small, it's an interesting one. I'm interested to see what's coming next for the newly rebranded LibreOffice.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Firefox Collections

Following on from my previous post, Yet Another Computer Blog now has it's own official collection, which you can find here.

This collection is so far made from my own list of addons, but in time will be influenced by readers and comments made about it.
I've made some more discoveries since the last post as well, in particular ones giving me a rather Chrome-like experience.

Now, for the hardcore, there's the Chromifox themes and extensions which bring the entire Chrome look to Firefox, but what if you like your Firefox theme or persona? Fear not, we have the answer.

Firstly, you'll need only two addons.
Tabs On Top - Does exactly what it says, moves the tab bar to the top of the window.
Hide Caption Titlebar Plus (Smart) - This lets you remove the window manager decorations, cutting it down to just Firefox, and adding it's own controls for minimize, maximise and close.

Optional extras:
Tab Wheel Scroll - This lets you change tabs with the mouse wheel just like Chrome.
App Tabs - More from ChromeOS than Chrome itself. Have a tab set aside for web-apps, like GMail.
Download Statusbar - Chrome pretty much has this built into it.
Locationbar^2 - Chrome highlights the domain name, and this replicates it.
Smart Stop/Reload - Combines the two into one intelligent button that shows the most appropriate one.

And that's pretty much it. Experiment with the configuration a bit, and you can get quite close to Chrome.
There are probably other addons that can make Firefox even more Chrome-like without sacrificing your theme/Persona, so if you find a working combo, please go ahead and suggest it!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Hybrid - a horror or not?

It was remarked recently that I'm a bad Linuxer because I use a hybrid desktop - hybrid in this case meaning a mix of GTK (AKA Gnome/XFCE), QT (KDE3.5 and 4.x) and Windows (via Wine) applications.
To this I say: What's wrong with that?

Now, I understand that if you keep all things native to your current session, eg Gnome apps in a Gnome session, KDE ones in a KDE one and so on, then you'll likely have better overall performance and a uniform look.
But the downside of this is that some of the session specific options I don't like, and want what I want instead.
Even though this means having my GTK apps look different to my QT ones, I don't mind that. I could use the QT or Oxygen engines for GTK, I could use the GTK engine for QT, but I don't want to.

What this boils down to is that I like things my way, and I couldn't care less what widget set or session it was made for - if it runs with the ones I'm using, then I'll use it.

This is especially useful right now, since I've changed my desktop again. To what? Well, not Gnome, as I've fallen out with it again.
No, this time it's KDE, but not the monster of the KDE4.x series - Thanks to the Chakra project, based on Arch Linux - which conveniently, I use - I've dug out the kdemod-legacy repository, giving me the older KDE 3.5 desktop - and it beats even the 4.x series. Yes it's unsupported. Yes, 4.x has all those flashy bells and things. Yes, I still use some Gnome apps. But overall, KDE 3.5 is one of the better sessions I've had.

It's customized, naturally. The default panel was shrunk down to the K Menu and a CPU monitor, and is auto-hidden in a corner, appearing only when I need it. Everything else is taken over by the Avant Window Navigator at the bottom.
Compiz and Emerald replace Kwin as the window manager of choice. While this takes up a little extra resources, it provides a few things Kwin can't.
And that's actually where KDE stops, because most of the applications I use are actually GTK-based.
OpenOffice, while not strictly speaking a GTK app, pulls it's theming from the current GTK settings. Since KDE has a handy module for choosing the GTK theming while in a KDE session, this isn't a problem, even if I use a KDE colour scheme that normally upsets OpenOffice - which is often.
Pidgin has taken over from Emesene (MSN) and XChat (IRC), also taking support for Google Chat and Twitter, bundling them all neatly together into one GTK application. Pidgin's plugin framework makes it unparralelled for those who use lots of IM networks, let alone those who use IRC and more on it.
Transmission Bittorrent... well, actually I'm trialling the QT interface for it, which I previously hadn't known about. So far so good, except for one mysterious crash I can't seem to replicate, but if I find any real problems, it's back to the good old GTK one.
Lastly, Firefox.

Regulars will know that Iron and Firefox regularly clash over my favour. However, through now fault of it's own, Iron has finally lost out for good.
The main reason is XMarks. If you don't know what it is (or possibly was) it's a cross-browser and platform bookmark sync tool. It's kept my Firefox and Iron bookmarks up to date and synchronized so that no matter which one I added a bookmark in, both had it.
However, they're discontinuing their service, and there doesn't seem to be any alternative that works for both Chrome and Mozilla based browsers.
So once more, I've tweaked out Firefox with a ton of extensions, with Firefox Sync supplanting Xmarks.

One further note on Firefox though, specifically the TACO extension.
There's a little controversy going on over TACO since TACO 3.0.
TACO 2.0 (Which lives on as Beef TACO) was an invaluable tool for blocking and opting-out of a lot of unwanted things. I'll let you read up in more detail on the Beef TACO page here:
TACO 3.0 'with Abine' sees a massive increase in the size of the extension, and adds this Abine thing. This appears to be some kind of iTunes store like extra where you can purchase extra functionality, at the cost of some massive reduction in performance, with it nagging you pretty much constantly.
The same results TACO 3.0 offers, without this and without the massive footprint, can be achievevd through several smaller extensions. Beef TACO, of course, replaces this. Add in the BetterPrivacy and NoScript extensions, and you're set to go. Adblock is an optional extra. Alternatively, if you don't like the way NoScript handles it, set up Adblock and Flashblock instead. Flashblock conveniently handles Silverlight as well, making it more useful.
Stop Autoplay is another optional addition, removing yet another web annoyance.
OptimizeGoogle is useful for removing a lot of junk from Google's search and other tools.
Greasemonkey, and by extension Greasefire, is also useful. Pull in user scripts that work on pages and you can enhance things yet further - not to mention some scripts are also capable of handling some parts of what TACO 3.0 tries to do.

Basically, there are better ways to handle it than TACO 3.0 - and all of them, regardless of what these Abine people think, are better than TACO 3.0

In similar Firefox news, since I tweaked it out, I found some interesting new extensions. I won't go on about them here, instead I'll just list them. You can look them up yourselves.
If there's interest though, I might turn it into a collection if people want to see just what I use and why.
So here's the official YACB interesting new extensions list:
All-in-One Sidebar
App Tabs
Hide Caption Titlebar Plus
Liquid Tabs
Tab Progress Bar
Tab Wheel Scroll
Unread Gmail Favicon

That's all for now.
Until next time, keep rocking.